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Investing in Softcat (LON:SCT) five years ago would have delivered you a 739% gain

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We think all investors should try to buy and hold high quality multi-year winners. While the best companies are hard to find, but they can generate massive returns over long periods. For example, the Softcat plc (LON:SCT) share price is up a whopping 588% in the last half decade, a handsome return for long term holders. This just goes to show the value creation that some businesses can achieve. It's also good to see the share price up 28% over the last quarter. It really delights us to see such great share price performance for investors.

Let's take a look at the underlying fundamentals over the longer term, and see if they've been consistent with shareholders returns.

View our latest analysis for Softcat

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

Over half a decade, Softcat managed to grow its earnings per share at 24% a year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 47% per year, over the same period. This suggests that market participants hold the company in higher regard, these days. That's not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth. This favorable sentiment is reflected in its (fairly optimistic) P/E ratio of 49.19.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

We know that Softcat has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? If you're interested, you could check this free report showing consensus revenue forecasts.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Softcat, it has a TSR of 739% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that Softcat has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 82% in the last twelve months. That's including the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 53% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Softcat you should know about.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on GB exchanges.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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